Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Low Carb During Lent

Jennifer asks how one does low carb during lent...

Well, there are ways to do the Metabolism Miracle Diet as a vegetarian or a vegan. Tofu is allowed on the diet. Seitan (a meat substitute based on gluten) is also available. Many of the things like veggie crumbles (aka soy) are low carb. Shrimp, scallops, etc. are low carb. Veggies are low carb.

Personally, I don't feel very comfortable eating processed soy foods and I try to avoid them.

That being said, many of us ARE pre-diabetic or have had a doctor tell us to cut the carbs (I know I have, Oh, if only I'd listen!) and in such cases one has that chat with one's priest and one does what one is told (Oh, if only I'd listened!).

Because I've been told to eat the way my doctor told me to, and the whole "lenten excuse" has been, for me, to eat all my favorite foods in the name of fasting. Bread. Pasta. Cookies. Crackers. Potatoes. Carbs.

So here's the thing: Don't look at what is on someone else's plate during lent, to judge what they are or are not eating. One does not know what their particular obedience is. Someone may appear very "righteous" and be eating a slice of bread with jelly, and be actually disobedient. I'm speaking of myself here with the vorbidden bread.

So, fasting is difficult and I almost hesitate to write these things in such a public way, but I suppose if I can share my own struggle and thereby help someone else either feel "not alone in the struggle" or to inspire someone to do better than myself, its good.

What I usually do is cut out red meat and poultry and stick with fish and eggs and veggies and cheese. It may not seem like much of a "fast" but it is very very difficult, especially considering there's no bread or pasta or potatoes to be had. And yes, my priest has told me I should do what my doctor has told me to do. Now I just have to actually do it instead of making excuses to indulge myself in my own passions that outwardly look better than they inwardly are.


Jennifer said...

Oh goodness, I sincerely hope you don't think I was criticizing you in any way!! I was asking for myself :-) I have a very difficult time giving up the cream in my coffee every day. Not sure how I'm going to do that. It might not seem like much, but it is HARD because I MUST have my morning coffee ;-) and cream just makes it sooooo good!

I so relate to your struggles with food. I don't eat meat, so carbs are my best friends! And I find it so hard to drop the weight. I was thinking about trying a low carb option... but like you, I'm not a big fan of processed soy products. I'm going to go with high protein grains like quinoa as a substitute for rice or even pasta. And lentils... lots. and. lots. of lentils.

I love what my priest says about fasting- you have to have a fast that you can keep. My husband isn't Orthodox (and I'm only a catechumen!!) so if I went all vegan on him for the 40 days of Lent, he'd probably get really annoyed. What a way to introduce him to Orthodoxy.

Have you heard of the blog "Fat-Free Vegan"? Its kind of a clearinghouse of recipes from what I've been able to gather- maybe they have some low-carb options there that are filling but don't involve soy. There's even an "Ortho-Vegan" blog somewhere... but it doesn't update much.

Anyway, all this is to say that I think what you are doing is awesome and I hope to encourage you through it.

Alana said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I did not take your question as a criticism at all. It is a question that gets asked a lot, especially since so many Americans do have blood sugar issues thanks to our lifestyle sand the food industry and our previous life choices.

Both the ladies who run the Food Renegade blog and the Organic and Thrifty blog are Orthodox Christians. They would also be good resource persons and are waaaay further along on the "healthy eating" journey than I am. Since I'm about 70 pounds overweight, I feel like I have NOTHING to contribute to that sphere of information/knowledge, except for sharing my struggle.

See my blogroll for those blogs I mentioned.

deb said...


I think my priest has cream in his coffee during Lent. Beating yourself up over fasting details is counter-productive, and, as you say, going all hardcore about it around your husband could really annoy him. Your priest is right; you need a fast you can keep. Obsessing over our fasting (and I would argue even talking about it much at all), for whatever reason, really just boils down to pride and narcissism (note how Alana indicates that she hesitates to write about it publicly--that's the right instinct). That's not to say we blow off the rules, but believe me, obsessing over them and going around lamenting about how "sinful" we are because we find fasting difficult is a quick ticket to either judgmentalism or burnout. Not saying that's what I see here, but just noting a fantastically common temptation among converts, one that I've certainly fallen to myself.

I'm reminded of a very traditionalist Greek woman in our parish (who died a year or so ago--memory eternal!). She knew all the rules and a lot more about her faith than you or I will ever be able to absorb in this life. Good luck to you if you tried refusing her offer of feta cheese or hard-boiled eggs when you visited her during Lent. Ha.

When people modify the fast to accommodate their health issues, it's often recognized that the health issue itself makes for an asceticism equal to or greater than following the typical fasting calendar and rules. You know, like, what's a bigger cross to bear, not having breakfast on Sunday mornings, or having Type 1 diabetes, which requires you to eat before Liturgy? Like that. (Not just, of which I've sometimes heard, parishioners asking for a blessing to be on the Atkins diet during Lent, although there's no real medical reason for them to be eating so much meat.)

Greg & Ashleigh said...

Thanks, Alana. Your words are great encouragement!

Rebecca said...

I'm on a very low carb diet right now (doctor's orders) - like no more than 20g per day ... and I've kind of prepared my friends at church - "I know I'll be eating some things that you are fasting from, but believe me, trying to stay on 20g of carbs per day is a fast in itself!" So many things I love, and watch my family eat are simply off limits.

Amy said...

As everyone else said, you're exactly right. The greatest challenge of fasting from food is keeping our minds and hearts in the right place about what we put in our mouths and what we think about what everyone else is putting in theirs! It's not about the food itself.

You're doing a good job preparing yourself for where you need to go. It's tough and you slip up, but keep your chin up. You may not have listened in the past to doctor's orders, but it sounds like you are now. Good job!